Dizzying political spin

Jeff Morosoff, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University

First, a heads up: much of this blog’s information will be irrelevant less than two days after it’s posted.

This has been a trying week for politicians, both locally and nationally.  In Congress, the struggle to find a way to raise the debt ceiling while cutting the cost of government proved to be almost impossible.  Locally, political leaders campaigned to convince voters to shoulder a new tax to fund a sports arena.  But for me, what was more interesting to watch was the gamesmanship everyone was playing in full view of the media.

The shenanigans in the House of Representatives made me long for the days when political deals were made in the proverbial back room.  But the 24-hour news cycle has given us an era of  posturing soundbites, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.  And the spin was so dizzying that most Americans have become sickened and even scared.

Nassau voters go to the polls tomorrow after being inundated with messages about borrowing money on behalf of the Islanders’ owner so he can replace the dreary Nassau Coliseum.  The arguments for and against are strong, but clearly the local media has come down on the side of Mr. Wang.  I assume he’s been paying for the “yes” vote messaging out of his deep pockets.

These media shows were all about political positioning through message marketing.  The Tea Party refused to compromise, the GOP tried to set up the president for failure, and the Democrats waited for the Republican Congress to divide so they could conquer.  Political commentator Ben Stein called it, “A stupendous pile-up of immensely careless people.”   In Nassau, a county already in debt way over its head, the messaging was also doomsday-based: if we don’t vote to borrow more money and allow ourselves to be taxed for it, the local economy will be devastated. 

I’m waiting to see the result of the spin.  Either way, it’s not going to be pretty.  Your thoughts?

5 thoughts on “Dizzying political spin

  1. Phil Hecken

    While I’m not so sure one can draw a parallel between the federal debt ceiling “vote” with the Islander “vote,” there are correlations between the two. Nassau voters appear to be woefully uninformed about what they are casting a ballot for (or against), but this is par for the course in campaigns of this nature. Why else hold a vote when many are on vacation, on a Monday (!) in the middle of the summer? How many days is it until election day? It’s about 100 till the general and about six weeks until primary day — both days when more voters will be heading to the polls. So why the rush to vote now? And how much money will it cost to open all the polling places and have inspectors and all the trappings associated with an election, when postponing such a vote to September or even November would cost next to nothing?

    Casting aside the wisdom of publicly financing what are in essence private stadia (a debate not worth getting into here), both sides have laid out the pros and cons of the vote — essentially financing it will create short and long-term debt but with a possibility (I haven’t seen any GUARANTEE) of ROI, and job creation designed to stimulate a morbid economy. What isn’t explained, at least from what I have seen, are the consequences of either 1) doing nothing (rejecting the ballot proposal) or 2) the alternatives. Very little is being said about the very real possibility of a future casino being owned (although not necessarily operated) by the Shinnecock tribe. I believe this is a much less remote possibility than we are being led to believe, should the proposed measure fail on August 1.

    Part of the beauty, as well as the disheartening reality of politics, is that all elected officials are accountable to the voters in cycles, usually every two years. This leaves very little time to consider long term good when contrasted with short-term pain. Self-serving political agendas are part and parcel of this democratic cycle — very few nowadays seem willing to sacrifice short term “pain” for long-term prosperity (or public good). Those who are pushing for a vote on the fate of the Coliseum (and surrounding lands) are themselves taking a calculated political risk — one which may indeed come back to haunt them in the short term — but probably not before the next general election. Whether the wisdom of this “new” Coliseum and development is “good” for the people of Nassau County probably won’t be ascertainable for decades, but the short-term effects, at the ballot box, will be felt within two years. But let’s face it — that’s almost an eternity in political terms.

    1. Phil Hecken

      Interesting article in The NYT today. From that article:

      Holding the vote in August, instead of on Election Day, will cost more than $2 million, and the Islanders and their supporters have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more on billboards, radio and newspaper advertisements and robocalls.

      Think the deck is stacked?

  2. Robert Messineo

    Let me begin with what I believe creates problems where none need exist. Mr. Wangs “deep” pockets are not relevant to the argument. However such statements serve to disguise the core point of the subject matter.

    Why, un this day and age of global media, branding and endorsements, are tax payers being asked to further support a public works project that could otherwise enjoy private sectored financing in exchage for long term equity positions including a stake in the team itself.

    This endeavor appears to be yet another example of our politicians good intentions, combined with either the ignorance on modern structured finance methods or the need for a quick fix, so as to appear effective before the next election.

    Will the taxpayers of Nassau County ever again find elected officials serving in their capacity where the publics best interest is more important than their re election?

    When did doing the right thing for the masses give way to self serving political agendas?


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